Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 15: #ReadersAdvisory, #BookLists, and #BingeReading

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics for this super-light week include #BookLists, #Cybils, #KidLitCon, #ReadersAdvisory, binge reading, growing bookworms, Little Free Library, nonfiction, and reading. 

Book Lists

I could use this today: 15 Smile-Inducing Children's Books about Happiness + Joy  A @momandkiddo #BookList #kidlit

Get Kids to Read More with These Binge-Worthy Series by Stephanie Cohen @ReadBrightly  #kidlit #SummerReading

8 Kids' Books That Celebrate Diverse Historical Figures by @ClaySwartz @ReadBrightly  #kidlit #BookList

15 Books to Keep You Cool This Summer, from Tacky the Penguin to Julie of the Wolves  @literacious #BookList

Growing Bookworms

The Influence of Books in Early Childhood | Guest post by @mrskatiefitz @pagesandmargins  #RaisingReaders

#RaisingReaders and Rainstorms | Using books to help teach kids responsibility by @Kateywrites

Well of course: Kids Books Use More Rare Words Than Adult TV, reports @bustle  via @PWKidsBookshelf


This week's round-up of #kidlit fantasy + sci fi from around the blogs  w/ #Cybils + #KidLitCon plugs  @charlotteslib

Lots of interesting stuff in today's Fusenews, including a very cool clock — @FuseEight  #kidlit

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Adventures in the real world, on kids #reading #nonfiction for pleasure by @annerooney  @AwfullyBigBlog

Humorous but sad: My #LittleFreeLibrary war: How our suburban lending box made me hate books and fear my neighbors

The Satisfaction of #BingeReading  @5M4B @5minutesformom #reading

Schools and Libraries

Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and how @himissjulie created suggested #SummerReading lists  #kidlit

Doing #Readers' Advisory for “Early Able, Eager Readers” ages 4-10,  New resource reviewed at @sljournal

A proposal for organizing #library collections for kids w/ as few labels as possible  @himissjulie #ReadingChoice

Sounds right to me: How self-proclaimed Lazy Teacher @sxwiley helps kids learn to be competent + self-sufficient 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

6 Back-to-School #PictureBooks from @HarperChildrens

HarperCollins sent me a big box of back-to-school picture books, several of them featuring characters that we already enjoy. Here are some highlights:

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton. When he learns from Otter Keeper what school is for, Otter decides to set up a school for his stuffed animal friends, who "weren't as clever as they could be." He dresses up as the teacher, and offers math, music, storytime, and lunch, Otter-style. Here's a bit that made me smile: 

"First it was time for math.
I wrote down all the numbers I knew.
No one could work out what to do after that.
So everyone just took turns holding the calculator." 

People who demonstrate proficiency in something (including the teacher himself) are awarded "lots of gold stars". But when one sad student is found not to be much good at anything, Otter needs help from Otter Keeper to figure out what to do. I thought this was the best of the Otter series so far, with a nice mix of humor and warmth. 

Pete the Cat's Got Class by James Dean.  In this new Pete the Cat book, Pete, who likes math, decides to help his friend Tom. Tom is rather math-phobic. Pete's idea for making math fun for Tom is to use cars (which Tom loves) for counting, addition, and subtraction practice.

Though a bit lesson-y, I do think that the idea of making math relevant to someone's particular interests is a good one. This book also features removable math flashcards, stickers, and a fold-out poster. My six year old is in heaven. And Dean's bright illustrations are enough to make any kid have a positive attitude about math. 

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins. This is a detailed picture book about a boy and his dog, and the learning that they do together. Basically, Lucky (the dog) wonders about things out in nature, observing and asking himself questions. He's then able to help Frank learn about things, too. Perkins uses this format to fill the book with interesting tidbits of and about knowledge. For instance, after Lucky wonders about skunks, the two use an experiment to learn what kind of bath will work to change the smell molecules. The reader learns about science, botany, astronomy, entymology, and more. 

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a picture book for older (six and up, I would say) and/or more patient kids. It is dense and sprinkled liberally with technical terms. But it's wonderful, a celebration of both friendship and scientific inquiry, full of outdoor adventures. This is a book that belongs in libraries and homes everywhere.

Rappy Goes to School by Dan Gutman and Tim Bowers is the sequel to Rappy the Raptor, about a young raptor who, after a bump on the head as an infant, only speaks in rap. In this installment, Rappy goes to school for the first time. His parents warn him not create a disruption with his rapping. However, when a big kid in his class makes fun of a boy who is clearly shy, Rappy steps in, offering rap as a distraction. Then, when rappy has trouble with spelling, the shy boy is able to help him. The bully gets his comeuppance, and Rappy concludes:

"Tomorrow I'll go back to school.
Learning stuff is really cool.
Now I know that in the end
all you need is one good friend."

So, ok, a bit lesson-y at the end. I think to some extent that's the nature of back to school books - they exist to show kids how to behave and not to be scared.  But I also think that kids about to start school will appreciate Rappy's joyous songs. Like the first book, Rappy Goes to School is not a book that can be appreciated when read silently to oneself. It's necessary to read it aloud, applying plenty of rhythm to the rapping.  I challenge you not to get this part stuck in your head (in a good way):

"I'm Rappy the Raptor
and I'd like to say
I may not talk in the usual way
I'm rappin' and snappin' all of the time.
I just can't help but talk in rhyme."

Ruby Rose: Off to School She Goes by Rob Sanders and Debbie Ridpath Ohi is about a little girl who lives to dance and her transition to a kindergarten class in which there is no time for dancing. Throughout the first day of school, Ruby Rose hip-hops and hula dances between activities. When her classmates line up after lunch, she gets them all line dancing. Her inability to sit still is frowned upon with increasing firmness throughout the day. But then an accident finds even the teacher dancing about. 

I always love Debbie Ridpath Ohi's illustrations, and this book is no exception. I suspect that Ohi is going to be the next illustrator whose pictures my daughter recognizes on sight. Ruby Rose's joyful movement comes across on every page. Her classmates are realistically multicultural and delightfully cheerful. And her wide-eyed mom, after receiving a surprise on the last page, is priceless.  

Ruby Rose: Off to School She Goes will please any kid who likes to dance. Kids who have difficulty sitting still, or fitting into the routines of school in general, will also relate to Ruby Rose's plight, and smile at her irrepressible spirit.

Winne & Waldorf: Disobedience School by Kati Hites is the sequel to Winnie & Waldorf, a book about a girl and the awkward dog who is her best friend. In this installment, Winnie decides that Waldorf has been behaving particularly poorly, and needs to go to school. She sets up Winnie's Disobedience School in her home, putting Waldorf through subjects like reading, addition, naptime, and art. But when the pair go outside for gym class, Waldorf's disobedience takes over and then (as in the first book) ends up saving the day. 

Hites' gentle illustrations lend humor to the book, and reinforce the strong bond between Winnie and Waldorf. During reading time, books scattered on the floor include: How To Tie Your Shoes by A. Shumaker. During art class, Waldorf wears a beret and a taped-on mustache, and works simultaneously with paint, crayons, and pencil (using mouth and paws). 

Like Winnie, kids about to start Kindergarten will enjoy this warm and quirky introduction to school activities. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 13: #GrowthMindset, #KidLit Reviews + #Playing #Library

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter has refocused recently, and now contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, including bookworms, mathematicians, and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (two picture books, one illustrated early chapter book, and one middle grade) and one post about a small parenting win (my daughter turning to a book after being cut off from screen-time). I also have a post about my unwillingness to let my daughter win at Connect 4, and how I hope this contributes to nurturing growth mindset in her. I close with two posts with links that I shared on Twitter and one more with quotes from and responses to articles about to the joy of learning

Reading Update: In the past two weeks I read/listened to one middle grade title, and four adult titles. I read:

  • Jennifer Nielsen: The Scourge. Scholastic. Middle Grade/Middle School. Completed July 11, 2016, print ARC. Review to come closer to publication. 
  • Sara Paretsky: Deadlock (V. I. Warshawski #2). Dell Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 1, 2016, on MP3. I'm really enjoying the early 80's time period of these early Warshawski novels. 
  • C. J. Box: Force of Nature (Joe Pickett, Book 12). Berkley. Adult Mystery. Completed July 6, 2016, on MP3. I'm sad to realize that I'll be finishing this series soon... Glad that there are plenty of the V.I. Warshawski books left. 
  • Elly Griffiths: A Dying Fall (Ruth Galloway #5). Mariner Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 6, 2016, on Kindle. It took me a while to get through this one, but I continue to love Ruth and her assorted friends and family members, as well as Griffiths' writing. 
  • Sara Paretsky: Killing Orders (V. I. Warshawski #3). Dell Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 9, 2016, on MP3.

ThisIsMyDollhouseI'm currently reading Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training by Jonathan Bernstein and listening to Widowmaker by Paul Doiron (the latest Mike Bowditch mystery). The books my husband and I and our babysitter have been reading to our daughter in 2016 can be found here. My daughter has been dabbling in reading on her own a bit more, without fuss. I'll just find a book open on her bed, or she'll bring one down for me to add to the list that I keep on the kitchen table. She's been visiting the library more this summer, too, and I thought that she made some excellent choices on her last visit, including a couple that I had on her wish list: This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter and Maple and Willow Apart by Lori Nichols. This Is My Dollhouse actually inspired her to want to make her own dollhouse out of a cardboard box. She's also been playing library in my office quite a bit - there are plenty of books to play with!

I'm continuing to share all of my longer reads, as well as highlights from my picture book reads with my daughter, via the #BookADay hashtag on Twitter. Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. Wishing you all plenty of time for summer reading.

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

First Grade, Here I Come!: D.J. Steinberg + Tracy Bishop

Book: First Grade, Here I Come!
Author: D. J. Steinberg
Illustrator: Tracy Bishop
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-7

FirstGradeHereIComeFirst Grade, Here I Come! by D. J. Steinberg is a book of poems dedicated to experiences that kids are likely to have as they begin first grade, like visiting the library, waiting for snack time, going on a field trip, having pajama day, etc. I found the details early in the book to be fairly accurate regarding the difference that we're expecting as my daughter goes from kindergarten to first grade, like:

"Big-time backpacks on our backs,
skinny pencils, books in stacks,
desks to call our very own,
recess in the big-kid zone..."

Some of the other ideas could have been equally applicable to kindergarten or to higher grades, but of course there's going to be a range of experiences in every classroom. 

Steinberg includes nice touches of realistic humor throughout the book. For instance, the solution to a math problem of adding up different color candies is "ZERO, 'cause I ate all EIGHT!". A girl wears pajamas to school a week early for pajama day, to much embarrassment. The kids have their best field trip ever when the bus breaks down, and they end up hanging around and then getting ice cream at a mall. There's a poem about a kid who makes armpit noises. It's all quite kid-friendly. 

I thought that Tracy Bishop's illustrations, full of multi-cultural kids with huge, cartoonish smiles, were a bit cute for my own taste. But they certainly serve the book's purpose of making first grade activities seem accessible and non-threatening to younger kids. My favorite set of illustrations are the vignettes that illustrate the poem BFF (one picture per couplet):

"Monday, Kim's my BFF.
Tuesday, I'm through with her.

Wednesday, we'll never be friends again ever,
and sorry we ever were!

Thursday, we kind of forget why we're mad
and how we started this war.

Friday, Kim's my BFF--
my best friend forever once more."

The girls' varying moods are conveyed through posture and facial expressions, and they aren't (for once) smiling in every image. 

First Grade, Here I Come! is a solid addition to the ranks of books about starting school. I like that it covers activities throughout the year, rather than being only about overcoming fears on the first day (as are many in this niche). I also like the use of poetry to explore first grade events and activities, the kid-friendly humor, and the range of racial backgrounds conveyed by the illustrations. Libraries serving rising first graders will want to give this one a look. 

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (@PenguinKids) 
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

#GrowthMindset and Connect 4

ConnectFourMy daughter (age six) is currently obsessed with playing Connect 4. We have the Red Sox / Yankees edition. But she is finding it frustrating. Her strategic thinking skills just aren't developed enough for her to win more than the occasional round, and I am constitutionally incapable of cheating to let her win. With this baseball-themed edition, the person who wins nine rounds first wins the game. This morning, when the score was something like five to two, she became very whiny and defeated. 

But I believe in growth mindset (the idea that one's abilities can be improved through practice and hard work). So first I:

  • Explained the difference between games of skill and games of luck. ("You will never get better at Chutes and Ladders");
  • Reminded her that I don't cheat to let her win, so that when she does win, she knows she really got me; and
  • Told her again and again that she needs more practice, and that she will get better.

When none of things approaches perked her up, I tried something new. We played a couple of rounds in which I explained to her what I was doing as I was playing. ("I'm going here to block you from getting three in a row here", etc.) She didn't end up winning those rounds, but the process still seemed to perk her up a bit. 

Currently (after some time in between spent doing other things) she is downstairs playing Connect 4 with her babysitter (who also doesn't believe in cheating to let her win). I just heard a cheery "Heh, heh, heh" from my daughter, so it sounds like she's doing better, but I haven't checked in.

Here's the thing. It's difficult to listen to your whiny, defeated child when she is losing at Connect 4 (or anything else requiring skill). You feel a bit mean, knowing that you have had X more years of practice with strategic thinking and playing games. But I truly do think that this is an occasion that calls for tough love. Here are some of the things that my daughter is learning as she struggles at Connect 4.

  • How to cope with failure, and try again;
  • How to be a good sport, even when you would prefer to toss the pieces onto the floor;
  • How to take an extra minute to check your logic before you drop that piece into the slot; and
  • How to anticipate what the other person is going to do next, and preempt them.

Hopefully she will eventually learn that she improves with practice. That's a message that we try to convey to her in many contexts. When the day comes that she gets to nine wins before I do, and that day will come, it will be an accomplishment that she can be proud of. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.  

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 8: Storytelling, International Books + #Homework

TwitterLinks Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics for this relatively light week include book clubs, book lists, Books on Bikes, classroom reading, growing bookworms, homework, international books, libraries, literacy, raising readers, schools, and storytelling.

Book Lists

Spotlight Friday - transitional #ChapterBooks, part 1, #BookList from @knott_michele  #kidlit

Some Student-Favorite Book Club Books for Middle School from @pernilleripp  #BookList #YA


What Good Are Windows + Mirrors When the Windows Just Look at Your Own Back Yard? — @fuseeight on international lit 

Events + Programs

This is super cool. Teachers + librarians visit kids during the summer to bring books  @BooksonBikes @nerdybookclub

Growing Bookworms

5 Must-Have Books for Parents #RaisingReaders from @housefullbkwrms    #ReadAloudHandbook + more 

What 10 Minutes of #Reading Really Is. Why @pernilleripp makes the investment for her students + how it works

Teaching Kids to Make Inferences with Magazine Pictures by @thisreadingmama  #literacy

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Interesting: Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love by @EBernsteinWSJ

9 Children’s Book Authors on the Joys of #SummerReading | @olugbemisola @ReadBrightly  @KateMessner + more

Schools and Libraries

Debunking the Belief That Earlier Is Better in Early Childhood #Education  by @raepica1 via @drdouggreen

New study of #homework finds self-reporting of time spent by kids is inaccurate, more research needed  @DTWillingham

This is pretty powerful: An Analogy to Help Teachers Understand #Homework  @d_mulder #EdChat #schools

New Study Finds Positive Association between Public Library Use + #ReadingAloud for Families w/ Young Kids  @JPediatr

“…many kids are learning how to be good at going to school.” #InnovatorsMindset@gcouros  #Curiosity

No grades, no timetable: Berlin #school turns teaching upside down | @guardian  #EdChat 

How #Schools Can Help Notice and Serve the ‘Quiet Kids’ | @ElissaNadworny  @MindShiftKQED  #Introversion

Should #reading groups in #schools be based on ability groupings? Nicole Hewes @HornBook shares alternatives 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

It Came in the Mail: Ben Clanton

Book: It Came in the Mail
Author: Ben Clanton
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

ItCameintheMailIt Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton is about a boy named Liam who desperately wants to receive some mail. One day, he write a letter to his mailbox, asking to get something in the mail. Something big. And lo and behold! A dragon comes out of the mailbox. After that, Liam gets a bit greedy, and asks for more and more stuff. Only when things get out of control does he find a better solution. Not to worry, though. He keeps the rather adorable dragon.

Ben Clanton displays a nice, quirky humor in It Came in the Mail. My favorite page is this one:

"But then, on a day much like any other,
an idea struck Liam.


The picture shows a winged lightbulb bonking Liam on the head, invisible to his nearby friend (who is busy thinking about a horse). 

The other illustrations are entertaining, too. When Liam is "met by a blast of fire" on the arrival of the dragon, the illustration is shown on the back of an envelope with the corner burned off. When the mailbox is creating stuff, there are lots of satisfying sound effects (KRINK, TOOT!, etc.) as well as a kind of visual, colorful confetti strewn across the page. Liam is a wide-eyed, freckle-faced every-kid with tousled hair. His letter to the mailbox are shown on lined paper, in kid-style print, with occasional cross-outs. They reminded me of my own daughter's letters to the Tooth Fairy. 

Liam is a bit inconsiderate to his friend, Jamel, and to his dragon. But he grows over the course of the book, and the ending is quite satisfying. Though there's a hint of messages about friendship and greed, It Came in the Mail is primarily pure, kid-friendly fun. Libraries will definitely want to give this one a look. I think it would be excellent for library or classroom storytimes. Recommended!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids) 
Publication Date: June 21, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

#JoyOfLearning Articles from @DEY_Project + @HornBook + @GrowingBBB

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three links to share related to joy of learning. In the first, an elementary school principal looks to bring back play in school, starting with Kindergarten. In the second, a former teacher reflects on the damage that leveled classroom reading can do to students' motivation to read. In the third, a mom and blogger shares straightforward advice for preparing preschoolers for Kindergarten, including making sure kids have plenty of time for play. I think that all three of these articles are worth your time.  

“Yes, You Are Allowed To Do That!” One Principal’s Mission to Bring Back #Play in #School @DEY_Project

Brett Gustafson: "It is clear to me, as it should be to all principals, that play is a necessary component of learning.  This should come as no surprise to early childhood educators but many elementary principals are slow to embrace.  I share this account with Defending The Early Years not to boast “Look how great I am!” because, had it not been my wife (who worked with Senior DEY Advisor Dr. Diane Levin in college), I might not have been so quick to try this experiment this year.  I share this because I know there are many well-intentioned principals out there who don’t have the early childhood background to know how crucial play is for learning.  Please share this with them to let them know, “Yes, you are allowed to do that.”"

Me: I am doing my part here to share Brett Gustafson's experience as a principal who is working to turn around a troubled school by bringing back play. Gustafson started in kindergarten, and ended up with an experiment in which one classroom focused more on academics while the other two went to a play-based format. Guess which style resulted in fewer discipline problems AND better academic outcomes? 

DolphinsAtDaybreakDoes leveled reading create life-long #readers? Nicole Hewes on why it can undermine student motivation @HornBook 

Nicole Hewes: "...I believe that students will be more motivated readers if they are empowered to be involved in determining what a “just right” book means for them. Three key ways in which leveled reading programs potentially undermine student motivation are the lack of autonomy and empowerment given to students regarding what books they will read, their lack of translation into the real-world. and their failure to account for student interest as a factor in reading ability...If we all aspire to create lifelong readers, we must take steps to structure our reading instruction so that it reflects what actually leads to increased motivation and engagement."

Me: My six-year-old is currently reading a Magic Tree House book a page at a time, because it is so challenging for her. She wanted to take it with us out to dinner the other night. In the car, I suggested, casually, that she might want to try a book that was a bit less challenging, so that she could get more practice and learn more words. She took my point, saying that she found The Princess in Black a bit closer to her reading level. I gave her an example, explaining that she could probably figure out what C-A-S-T-L-E spells from the content, and then she would recognize it in other books. But I was very careful not to say that she couldn't read that Magic Tree House book. She pulls middle grade novels from my shelves sometimes to see what progress she can make with them. [Answer: not so much, yet.] But she finds the process of choosing both fun and empowering. Why on earth would I want to take that away? 

Solid suggestions: 5 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten + future #reading development from @growingbbb

Jodie Rodriguez: "It sounds so simple.  But, it is the single most important thing we can do to help young children grasp language and develop a love of reading...Children need to hear lots and lots of language in order to talk, read, and write. Look for little ways numerous times a day to talk WITH your child...Don’t be afraid to use big words.  There is no need to dumb down language when we are talking with kids.  If your child doesn’t know a word you used, he’ll ask, and then you can have a quick lesson about the word... Oh, the power of play!  Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of the child.”  Our preschooler’s day should be filled lots of free play and guided play."

Me: This was a tough piece for me to quote from because there are useful snippets all through. Basically, Jodie offers common-sense advice based on the importance of both reading and free play for getting preschoolers ready for Kindergarten. She includes examples of what has worked for her own family. I especially liked her advice not to be afraid to use big words in talking with your kids. This is something that I have always done with my daughter, and she sometimes catches me off-guard with her use of strong vocabulary words. Anyway, this piece is well worth a read for parents or caregivers of toddlers and preschoolers. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 

Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost

Book: Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost
Author: Kjartan Poskitt
Illustrator: Wes Hargis
Pages: 160
Age Range: 7-10

AgathaParrotAndGhostThe Agatha Parrot books by Kjartan Poskitt are illustrated (by Wes Hargis) early chapter books originally published in the UK, and now being issued in hardcover in the US by Clarion Books. The first book, Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost, is a humorous and only very slightly scary ghost story involving an excessively ringing school clocktower, a mysterious glowing face, a spunky narrator, and a quirky cast of characters.

Agatha Jane Parrot lives on Odd Street, close to her school. She has a competent mother, a hapless father, and two siblings. Her friends are helpfully drawn and captioned at the front in the book, and soon introduced by Agatha as she rates each of their lunches with points out of ten for "interestingness." All of them are odd. One of them doesn't even make sense most of the time, and one of them is unrepentantly "big and hearty" (with a running joke about how much she eats). When the friends start hearing the school clock ringing and ringing during the night, and then see a strange glowing face in the window, they decide to investigate. Hijinks, including a late-night school ghost watch organized by the principal, ensue.

Agatha's narrative style is unconventional and kid-friendly. She speaks directly to the reader, and uses a lot of asides, exclamation points, and capital letters. Like this:

"My name is Agatha Jane Parrot and I live on house number 5, which has a red front door if you want to color it in." (Page 2)


"Good old clock. No wonder I went straight back to sleep with a smile on my face. (Although I couldn't see the smile, of course, because I was asleep.) (And it was dark.) (And it was my own face and I didn't have a mirror, so I couldn't have seen it anyway.) (This is getting silly -- ha ha!) (Sausage pie.) (Just thought I'd put that in for no reason!) (I bet the printers take it out.) (The meanies." (Page 10)

The book overall has a bit of an over-the-top Dahl-esque feel, with one teacher who imposes ridiculous contradictory rules, a kid who can climb anything, and a disgusting cereal called Fish Popz. Hargis's illustrations, full of exaggerated and sometime unpleasant characters, contribute to this feel. This over-the-top feel also helps keep the book from being too scary for young readers. Even when scary things are happening, Poskitt regularly lightens the mood. 

Agatha Parrot and the Odd Street School Ghost gives kids an entertaining narrator and ghostly mystery to solve. It stands out from more ordinary  chapter book series, while maintaining a school and home setting. I think it will be a welcome addition to the ranks of chapter books here in the US. Libraries serving 7-10 year olds will definitely want to give this one a look.

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids) 
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 1: Accelerated Learning, #Reading + #SchoolLibraries

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. It's been a fairly quiet week on the blogs, but I do have posts on #BookLists, #PictureBooks, Amazon, Feminist Books, Lois Duncan, Pernille Ripp, playgrounds, reading, Rick Riordan, school libraries, teaching, accelerated learning. 

Book Lists

LouiseAndAndie10 Encouraging Books About Making Friends from @growingbbb  #BookList #PictureBooks

Shape Books that Think Outside the Box #PictureBook Edition @housefullbkwrms  #BookList

On the #Cybils blog: #BooList Fun: #Diverse Cybils #PictureBook Finalists, list by Katie @thelogonauts 

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for 6- to 8-Year-Olds (w/ nice #diversity) by @olugbemisola  @ReadBrightly  #kidlit

TheodosiaRoundup of the @camphalfblood series + read-alikes from Jennifer Wharton  #kidlit #mythology #fantasy

11 Books Every Feminist Read Growing Up  @bustle via @tashrow #StrongGirls #Matilda #PippiLongstocking

Top Ten Titles That Promote Summer Fun by @jdsniadecki @nerdybookclub  #kidlit #nonfiction #poetry

This #BookList @sljournal  caught my eye: 11 #YA #Thrillers That Would Make Lois Duncan Proud 

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

BeaverIsLostBeautiful! An Illustrated Guide to the Best Places to Read w/ Children, Elisha Cooper @ReadBrightly  @PWKidsBookshelf

Fun! Braking for Books: @HMHKids Kicks Off Curious World Tour to encourage #SummerReading + #Play  @PublishersWkly

Love it! How Being A Book Nerd As A Child Turned Me Into A Better Adult, Averi Clements @bustle  via @PWKidsBookshelf

"Reading is NOT answering questions at end of a passage" + lots more in: What #reading is not by @profesornana 

A plan for giving books that time they deserve: READ, REFLECT, REACT by @Kateywrites  @nerdybookclub  #Reading


Redefining playgrounds: "Play should be imaginative, it should have some element of controlled danger"  @BostonGlobe

Schools and Libraries

PassionateLearners"What if every decision we made (as teachers) was centered on what is best for students" asks @pernilleripp

.@amazon Unveils Online #Education Service (marketplace w/ free lesson plans, etc) for #Teachers @nytimes

Trend Alert: More #SchoolLibraries Staying Open all Summer, sometimes giving books away  @sljournal 

Why Don't #Schools Accelerate More Students? @PeterMDeWitt @educationweek  via @drdouggreen

Will homework disappear in the age of blended learning? 3 examples from @cliffcmaxwell @ChristensenInst  @drdouggreen

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

A Tiny Parenting Win re: Reading

The other day my daughter was on her device for the duration of a 1 1/2 hour drive home from Monterey. When she got home, she wanted to keep using the device, particularly because I had agreed to let her download a new app. When my husband and I said no, that she had reached her limit for the day and then some, she was, shall we say, none too happy. She proceeded to mope about, with much whining, complaining, etc. My husband and I ignored this as best we could, and left her alone. 

DinosaursBeforeDarkTen minutes later I popped back into the kitchen and spotted her sitting on the couch in the family room, reading a Magic Treehouse book. I immediately slipped away again, thinking: "Now there is a win for parenting." She can't comfortably read the Magic Treehouse books on her own - there are too many words that she needs help with - and she only ended up reading a couple of pages. But still -- when her device was taken away, after a relatively short period of sulking, she turned to a book.

I think that if a book that was more at her reading level had happened to be handy at that moment, she probably would have continued reading longer. As it was, she ended up going into the playroom and writing me, as the fictional Emily, a note about how she would not be able to attend my upcoming birthday party because she, as the fictional Sara, had a science camp reunion that day. There is no Emily. Her name is not Sara. She's never attended science camp. I do not know where these things come from. But I did send a response.

What I do know is that if my daughter had been on her device, she would not have been trying to read a Magic Treehouse book, nor would she have been practicing writing and storytelling. And so, a small win for parenting. 

None of this is to say that I will never give her device time, or that there aren't educational benefits to some of the things she does on her tablet. But this small incident still reinforced to me the upside of setting limits on screen time. Even if one has to endure some sulking. 

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

Serafina and the Twisted Staff: Robert Beatty

Book: Serafina and the Twisted Staff
Author: Robert Beatty
Pages: 384
Age Range: 9-12

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is the sequel to Serafina and the Black Clock (which I listened to on audio last year and enjoyed but did not review). If you have not read the first Serafina book, please beware. There will be spoilers here for that book. My recommendation is that if you like reading about mysterious, supernatural creatures and dangerous situations, and you are intrigued by the idea of a girl growing up hidden in the basements of the vast Biltmore Estates around the turn of the 20th century, then you should stop reading this review, and just go out and get both books.

If you have read the first Serafina book, then you will not find Serafina and the Twisted Staff disappointing. This sequel takes place three weeks after Serafina and her friends have defeated the Man in the Black Cloak. Though Serafina's presence at the Biltmore Estate is now generally known, and her friendship with Braeden Vanderbilt accepted by his aunt and uncle, Serafina remains uncertain about her place in the world. She feels torn between the adoptive father who raised her in secret and the catamount mother who she has just met. Unlike her mother, and despite her odd physical traits, Serafina is unable to change into a mountain lion. 

As the story begins, Serafina again encounters a mysterious danger in the woods. When this danger extends into the Biltmore Estate, Serafina doesn't know where to turn, or how to help her family and friends. In Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Serafina must confront both her enemies and her insecurities. As in the first book, these quests are set against the fascinating backdrop of the secret-passage-studded Biltmore Estate and the treacherous forest that surrounds it. Real-life landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead also plays a role in the story. 

I read Serafina and the Twisted Staff in a single sitting, only hesitating to continue at one point near the middle, when it felt like too many circumstances were conspiring against Serafina. But I'm glad that I persisted, because Serafina is a heroine to be reckoned with, and rooted for. Here is Serafina:

"She jumped gullies and climbed hills. She took shortcuts, taking advantage of the road's meandering path. Her chest began to heave as she pulled in great gupls of air. Despite the trepidation she had felt moments before, the challenge of keeping up with the horses made her smile and then made her laugh, which made it all the more difficult to breathe when she was trying to run. Leaping and darting, she loved the thrill of the chase." (Chapter 2, ARC). 

And here's her pa:

"Look," her pa said, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. "You're alive, ain't ya? So toughen up. Bless the Lord and get on with things. In your entire life, has the master of the house ever demanded your presence upstairs? No, he has not. So, yes, ma'am, if the master wants you there, you're gonna be there. Will bells on."

"Bells?" she asked in horror. "Why do I have to wear bells?"" (Chapter 9)

And here's a description of Mr. George Vanderbilt, which I suspect is based on historical descriptions of this real-life figure:

"Mr. Vanderbilt had welcomed all sorts of guest to entertain themselves in the magnificent mansion he had built for that purpose, but he himself had a tendency to withdraw from revelry. He often sat in a quiet room by himself and read rather than imbibe with others. He was a man of his own spirit." (Chapter 13)

I'm pretty sure I would have liked this fellow introvert. I know that I would have liked his house.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a book that I would have found impossible to resist as a 10-year-old, and that I found difficult to resist even now, as an adult. It's a nice combination of creepy supernatural mystery and coming of age story, with bravery and battles set against musings on what makes up friendship and family. Fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak will certainly not want to miss this sequel. And I look forward to reading about Serafina and Braeden's future adventures. Recommended!

Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion (@DisneyHyperion) 
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the author's publicist

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).